Britain's first standing Citizens' Assembly in the London Borough of Newham has developed a series of ideas to improve Newham's green spaces and make them more accessible. The randomly selected assembly members presented their recommendations to the council after meeting with various experts and discussing ideas that were incorporated into their recommendations.
Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, thanked the Newham Citizens’ Assembly participants for their ‘significant commitment’ and participation in the democratic process. Commenting, she said: “Your involvement and passion is an indication of how special this borough is. I am proud we are enabling new and innovative ways for you to have a say about the issues that matter to you the most.
Your fresh ideas, perspectives and views have provided us with some really exciting ideas to improve our green spaces. By working together, we can secure our borough’s future and ensure we have beautiful, safe green spaces that we can all enjoy. This Citizens’ Assembly has provided a genuinely meaningful opportunity for Newham’s residents to help make the borough a healthier and happier place to live. I look forward to receiving the final report, which my Cabinet and I will consider carefully and respond to in detail as part of my commitment to making Newham Council an open, transparent council, which residents can trust.”
The permanent Citizens’ Assembly forms part of a range of new steps that Newham Council has been taking to extend participatory democracy and give residents a real voice and a say in shaping policy.
The Assembly’s recommendations covered the following themes:
- Steps to make parks and green spaces safer and more inclusive.
- Ideas to extend collaboration with the community and local businesses to fund and improve green spaces.
- Using digital to get more people developing activities in green spaces.
- Protecting and expanding well-designed accessible green spaces.
- Rewilding areas and increasing biodiversity to reconnect people with nature.
- Maintaining and de-littering green spaces.
- Creating facilities that are comfortable and sustainable.
- Looking at how proposals can reduce the borough’s carbon footprint to help address climate change.
The final proposals were drawn up over the summer and were presented to the council in September 2021. The City Council had decided on 7 December 2021 to approve the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. An implementation plan was also adopted.
10,000 invitations sent out
For the citizens' assembly, 10,000 letters were sent out to randomly selected households inviting invitees to apply for a place on the assembly. Fifty interested people were randomly selected to participate. The participants consulted over five days from 10 - 31 July 2021. For their participation, assembly members received an expense allowance of £330.
The topic of ‘greening the borough’ was chosen by residents through an online poll as the first issue they wanted Newham Citizens’ Assembly to discuss this summer. In total, 31% chose this option, closely followed by 30% selecting ‘the 15-minute neighbourhood’, which was addressed by the second Citizens’ Assembly in 2022.